Table of Contents
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya national park is so unpopular, it is not known to most people of Sri Lanka. It is one of the least touristy wildlife reserves in Sri Lanka. Usually, wildlife tours are a very popular activity in Sri Lanka and a large number of people, especially foreign travellers love Sri Lanka wildlife tours.
Yala national park, Udawalawe national park, and Minneriya national park are some of the very popular places that are included in most Sri Lanka trips. Gal Oya national park is located on the east coast of Sri Lanka. It is very convenient to visit most beach resorts on Sri Lanka’s east coast and Gal Oya national park is not considered a tourist attraction to visit on a Sri Lanka day trip from Colombo or the west coast.
Gal Oya National is also very convenient to visit from Sri Lanka’s Cultural triangle cities like Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. Therefore, if you are on the Sri Lanka cultural triangle itinerary, you can opt to visit Gal Oya national park on a short trip from Polonnaruwa of Sigiriya.
One day trip to Gal Oya national park is available from east coast beaches such as Arugam bay but there is no one trip to Galoya national park from the east coast beaches or the hill country due to the long journey.
Even though it has a large number of animals occurring throughout the year, especially the wild elephants the park is one of the least visited national parks in Sri Lanka.
This national park is situated in the remote area of Ampara in the Monaragala district. Ampara is not a popular tourist gathering area in Sri Lanka and therefore, it is not included as a place of visit in most Sri Lanka road trips, therefore most tourists are making their way to Ampara. And also tourists do not tend to make a special visit to Ampara due to the Galoya national park because there are a large number of alternative places such as Yala national park, Udawalawe national park, Wilpattu that are more convenient to reach during their Sri Lanka trip.
Gal Oya national park originated as a result of one of the biggest development projects (Galoya development project) of post-independent Sri Lanka, the Gal Oya multi-purpose development project.
The national park was established in the early 1950s as a patch of forest in the developed area, which exceeds 100,000 hectares, to accommodate the wild animals that lost their living habitats due to the development project.
Gal Oya national park covers more than 25,000 hectares of land in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Another important function of the national park is the protection of the catchment area of Senanayake Samudra.
Senanayake Samudra is a massive reservoir built after damming the Gal Oya River. Water collected at Senanayake Samudra was utilized to convert large tracts of forested area to farmland. 162,000 hectares of new farmlands came to being as a result of Senanayake Samudra. Today the reservoir is functioning as a separate sanctuary in parallel to nearby Gal Oya national park.
Visitors to Gal Oya national park have the opportunity to see some stunning scenic pictures while enjoying the wildlife at Gal Oya national park. The main contributor to the beautiful surrounding of Gal Oya national park is Senanayake Samudra; it is surrounded by rugged terrain dominated by mountains and evergreen dry-zone forest.
The road that leads to the national park is flanked by Senanayake Samudra and trees and bushes of the dry-zone forest. This remote national park is nestled among some beautiful countryside, reservoirs, mountains and villages.
Other than the jeep ride through the national park, a boat ride in the Senanayake Samudra is also very useful to spot wild animals in the area. The boaters have plenty of opportunities to see a large array of animals and birds in the surrounding area of the reservoir.
The sight of big herds of elephants at the edge of the reservoir is very common here, especially in the evening hours. Gal Oya national park and the surrounding area of Senanayake Samudra is a heaven for bird lovers.
It is one of the best places to see a large number of aquatic avian fauna species. Senanayake Samudra was the venue for a documentary film on the white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), done by world-renowned German filmmaker Dieter Plage.
Several most common bird species that are occurring here are spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis), grey-headed eagles (Lchthyophaga ichthyaetus), brahmuny kites (Haliaster indus indus), osprey (Pandion hadiatus ). Malabar hornbill and grey hornbill are also frequent visitors of Senanayake Samudra, but they are residing deeper in the woods.
Gal Oya national park is the last remaining breeding ground of a rare bird species known as Brown-capped babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillum). It lays 2-3 eggs at a time in a nest built on the ground or a small hole.
Among the endemic bird species red-faced malkoha (pahaenicophaeus pyrhocephalus) and Sri Lanka spurfowl (Galloperdix biclcarata) are the most occurring here. Both species are living in the thick jungle and are heard more often than seen.
Other than the wide choice for observing different species of birds, it allows you to see many species of other animals. Gal Oya national park is one of the best places to spot sloth bears (Melurus ursulis) due to the undisturbed environment. This animal loves to have a peaceful and tranquil environment. Sri Lankan leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya), Axis deer (Axis axis), sambhur (Cervus unicolour), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak) and elephant are the most common animals in Gal Oya national park.
Gal Oyna national park has very high ecological value and biodiversity, the trees, plants, and other living creatures and the topographical feature in the forest make it unique in many ways compared to other national parks on the island. The savanna forest or Patanbima type of vegetation is dominant in the surrounding areas of Gal Oya and Nilagala. Very valuable trees and plants that are used in indigenous medicine are abundant in the forest. Some of such important trees and plants are Aralu (Terminalia chebula), Bulu (Terminalia belerica), Nelli (Phyllanthus emblica), Gammalu (Pterocorpus marsupium) as well as grass varieties such as Heen Pangiri, Aththuththiri, Maha Pini Baru, Pini Baru, Athadi, and Vishnukranti are found here.